Program in Greece focuses on food and culture
Takis Psychas, shows students Allison Junca, Elisabet Trujillo, Lyell Turner, Lauren
Martin and instructor Judy Myhand around the Sanctuary of AsklepiosPhoto provided by Alexis Agard
Lauren Martin had never traveled abroad before visiting Greece. Martin, a junior in
the LSU College of Agriculture majoring in nutrition and food sciences, spent her
winter break with seven other students studying food and culture in Athens, Nafplion
“This trip allowed me to see, experience and observe so much that I never would have
if I hadn’t gone in an academic setting,” Martin said.
Martin received an international scholarship from the College of Agriculture to help
fund the trip.
“I was really grateful to receive the scholarship, and it helped make this experience
possible,” she said.
Judy Myhand, nutrition instructor in the LSU College of Agriculture and director of
the Food and Culture in Greece winter intercession program, spent two weeks with the
students in class prior to the trip, exploring cultural differences and intercultural
communications, discussing food and preparing for their journey.
Myhand said her goal for this study abroad program is to ensure the students come
home with open minds.
“If they think people are homogenous, that limits them,” Myhand said. “I want them
to approach life with the understanding that people have different likes and different
experiences, and I want them to value those differences.”
The students spent time shopping for food and cooking with local residents who have
been opening their homes to Myhand and her students for several years.
Martin said one of her favorite experiences was learning to make spanakopita, a dish
of phyllo dough, spinach and feta cheese, with Eleni Psychas.
“She doesn’t speak much English, and we didn’t speak Greek, but she showed us how
to make this humble but intricate meal,” Martin said.
Psychas’ husband, Takis, showed the students around Nafplion, a city on the Argolic
Gulf and the Peloponnese Peninsula.
Seven of the eight students participating in the program were studying nutrition and
food sciences with an interest in dietetics.
Alexis Agard, a junior studying agriculture business, said the class helped her understand
how food can tell a story and to see the economic development of a country.
“The Greeks taught us that food is an art, a form of expression that translates some
of the world’s greatest stories,” she said.
Myhand said most of the students in the program will go on to work in nutrition and
may work with clients from different backgrounds.
“They need to understand the relationship to food varies in different cultures,” Myhand
Martin said she is considering a career as a clinical dietitian and said the experience
will help her work with different populations.
“I learned how simple things can affect the way you communicate with people, how close
you stand to someone, how you greet them,” Martin said.
Martin and Agard also said they came back with a new perspective on time.
“There is a great need to be on time in America, but in Greece, time is relative.
Their culture has been around for thousands of years, so they have a different concept
of time,” Agard said.
The group adopted the Greek style of preparing and eating meals.
“We spent a profoundly greater amount of time preparing meals, sitting at the table,
lingering over food,” Martin said. “It was very different than at home where I eat
a lot of my meals alone.”
The group arrived in Greece on Dec. 27 and returned home Jan. 10. They participated
in some of the Greek holiday traditions and learned to make vasilopita, a traditional
New Year’s cake.
“Every minute was phenomenal,” Martin said.
Scholarships are available for students interested in other study abroad programs
and international experiences, said Ivana Tregenza, director of international relations
for the LSU College of Agriculture.
“Participating in an international experience is an essential part of education and
prepares students for their future careers,” Tregenza said. "It increases competitiveness
and attractiveness to the future employer, but furthermore, it opens students’ minds.”